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Old Believers

July 5, 2013


So, here is your history lesson for the day. The Old Believers is a term used to describe a group of people who, for various reasons disagreed with Patriarch Nikon (no, I am not making that up) around 1666, as he was advocating reforms that would bring Russian Orthodox practices into line with Greek Orthodox practices. Some of these reforms seem fairly insignificant, like how to hold your fingers when you cross yourself. However, there were also other social and political issues involved. Some of these people who objected to the reforms were also suspicious of state control over religion and Czar Alexis I supported the Patriarch in his reform efforts. Eventually, the Old Believers came under such persecution that many of them left Russia for Poland and Ukraine, where they lived for years. Others continued to live in Russia and were eventually exiled to Siberia, where they were forced to live in this harsh environment. They were forced to wear their traditional clothes as further punishment and to help identify them to others. These people were considered to be dangerous and powerful to the religious and political structures of their time. Many of them fled on their own, as far afield as Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and even Australia. Most of them wanted to isolate themselves and to preserve their religion and heritage, so they did not seek to integrate into the societies into which they moved.

Thus concludes your brief history lesson of the day. I hope you enjoyed it. I will show you the videos when we get together. I hope you will not find them too boring. In the meantime, here is a photo someone else took of the “marriage” they conducted today of the 2 30 year old single people of our group. This was after a long lunch of some of the finest food I have ever eaten. It was the best meal I have had on this trip and was followed by some of the Old Believers singing their traditional songs and acting out a “marriage” of 2 of the people in our group. We finished by singing a terrible, horrible version of a traditional Russian folk song we learned on the way there and a short version of “American Pie”. It was altogether lovely.


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